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When should indoor air quality testing be done?

indoor air quality testing

The average person may not know what indoor air quality (IAQ) entails or what it is.  We get calls from potential clients who are unsure of what questions to ask regarding their IAQ concerns. Some people may even be hesitant to call because they feel as if their concerns are not related to IAQ. This blog post will provide some guidance on when indoor air quality testing may be needed most.

Indoor Air Quality Testing: Construction/Renovations

Additionally, construction dust is made up of tiny particles that can enter the lungs and cause negative health effects. It is important for contractors to keep IAQ in mind in order to take the proper precautions to prevent particles from affecting the indoor environment. If you are concerned that recent construction in your home or office has impacted the IAQ, it is worth reaching out to a company to perform an IAQ assessment.

Residential or commercial buildings don’t stay the same forever. They undergo remodeling for aesthetic reasons, to update appliances or fixtures, or to resolve a leak or other problem. During the construction process drywall may be replaced, new paint added, or plywood cut.  These activities definitely have an impact on IAQ. Chemicals from new materials may be emitted. These chemicals are commonly known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and they can be hazardous to human health. They can also be found in cleaners, carpeting, furniture, floor finishes, and air fresheners to name a few.

Indoor Air Quality Testing: Sensitivity to a Contaminant

Before moving into a new apartment or buying a new home, it is common practice for buyers to conduct a home inspection of the property.  They may even be savvy enough to test for radon – a service Indoor Science offers. However, it is wise to do more specialized testing if you know you are sensitive to an environmental contaminant like mold or chemicals. For example, if you are sensitive to chemicals and are buying a new construction home, you may want to consider having the home tested for VOCs.  A company like Indoor Science can be hired as a precaution to perform a general IAQ assessment of the home prior to moving in.

Indoor Air Quality Testing: Odor

In a previous blog post entitled “What is that terrible odor,” we get into more details about what questions to ask when trying to identify an odor. This post is more of a reminder that a strange odor may be a nuisance but it could also be a cause for concern depending on what it is. The odor may be a gas leak, mold, or sewer gas, to name a few. Unfortunately, there is not one device or sample that can be taken and tested for all possible odors. The way we approach an odor concern is by casting a wide net and testing the most common indoor air quality contaminants such as mold, moisture, VOCs, particulates, natural gas leaks or sewer gases, etc. It does happen sometimes that all of the measurements and samples taken indicate that levels are not elevated or failing guidelines.  This does not necessarily mean that the odor is not present; it simply means that it could be coming from something else. In these cases, we keep searching for the underlying cause using building science principles. Even if we don’t identify the odor, occupants find some peace of mind in knowing that several potentially hazardous IAQ contaminants have been eliminated from the list of potential sources of the odor.

Conclusion

IAQ testing can be performed to address different types of concerns.  Even if there is a concern that feels minor, it is worth discussing it with an IAQ professional.  An IAQ consultant can offer guidance on the types of testing that can be performed. If you would like to do more research, about IAQ, our website and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website can offer more information.

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”